SOMERSET is experiencing a record high for NHS waiting times, with a reported 55,007 locals waiting for care.

Labour Councillor and leader of Bridgwater Labour, Councillor Leigh Redman, responded to the recent figures published on September 14.

“The longer the Conservatives are in power, the longer people in Somerset will wait for care," he said.

"After 13 long years of Tory rule our local public services are on their knees.

"55,007 are stuck on the waiting list at Somerset NHS Foundation trust.

"That means pain, anxiety and lives put on hold.

“It is well past time for change - and Labour has a plan to get our NHS back on its feet.

"We would make building an NHS fit for the future a central mission of the next Labour Government, starting with one of the greatest workforce expansions our health service has ever seen – fully funded by scrapping the non-dom status.”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, responded to the claims that the Conservatives are to blame.

He attributed the recent global pandemic, the population increase, and the lack of capacity in hospitals as reasons for the increased waiting times in Somerset - highlighting the work that the Conservatives have done to build hospitals in the county.

“Councillor Redman has got to stop playing games, and live up to the reality of where we are," he said.

“We’ve built Bridgwater, we’ve built Minehead, we’ve built Musgrove - we’re looking to build a health hub in Bridgwater.

"We're doing so much.

“We’re an older population, we're getting older – the problems we used to have are gone.

“We are just very conscious the NHS doesn’t need money, it needs help to do what it does.

“There’s no point playing silly games, you’ve got to come up with practical solutions - we’ve got to train more people to take care of more people."

Mr Liddell-Grainger also commended NHS workers for their unwavering work ethic despite tough working conditions in recent years.

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which runs services at Musgrove Park and Yeovil Hospitals, responded to the record-high waiting times.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “While we have made excellent progress in reducing waiting times for most specialties in Somerset following the COVID-19 pandemic, we know there is more we need to do, and some patients are still waiting longer than they should for planned care.

“All our teams are working extremely hard to ensure we continue to provide safe and compassionate care, including increased diagnostic capacity, additional weekend clinics and theatre operating sessions in a number of surgical specialties, and where possible, offering treatment at independent providers which can see the less complex patients more quickly.”

The NHS insists that it is still there for those who need healthcare, including those who may require an urgent referral or treatment for serious health concerns, such as cancer diagnosis and treatment.

A spokesperson said: "Please attend your appointments and, if you are concerned about any new or worsening symptoms, inform your hospital or contact your GP surgery."